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6 of Russia's Best 21st Century Projects

Given the country's rich architectural history spanning almost the entirety of the 20th century, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the fall of Russian Communism in the early 1990s might have sparked an exciting new era in design. That promise hasn't exactly been fulfilled, but as The Calvert Journal reports, a few promising recent projects are hinting at a Russian Renaissance.

The last twenty years of architecture has added little but bog-standard steel-and-glass office blocks to the limited palate of the Russian cityscape — the usual glinting onion domes, pompous Stalinist neoclassicism and crumbling tower blocks. But lately some architects have dared to differ and turned bold blueprints into bricks and mortar. Read on after the break for our pick of the best Russian buildings of the last decade.

Courtesy of Totan Kuzembaev © Ostozhenka Bureau © Fotikdepo © The Calvert Journal

Milan Expo 2015: Russia to Exhibit Expansive Timber Pavilion

Russia has released designs for their participation at Milan Expo 2015. Taking in consideration Russia’s most successful world EXPO pavilions, of which the country has been producing since 1851, and the importance of “green technologies,” SPEECH has designed an expansive 4000-square-meter timber structure with a pronounced roofline that features a mirrored canopy extending 30-meters over the pavilion’s main entrance. 

The Growth Of "Hipster Stalinism" In Areas Of Moscow

In an article for The Guardian, Maryam Omidi explores Moscow's Door19, a place where "Damien Hirst and David LaChapelle artworks adorn the raw concrete walls," "flair bartenders serve up gem-coloured cocktails," and "a rotation of Michelin-starred chefs flown in from around the world curate new menus each week." It is indicative, she argues, of what Kuba Snopek (a lecturer at the Strelka Institute) describes as "hipster Stalinism" - a surge of redevelopment in certain parts of Moscow that cater to the 'oligarchs', wealthy creatives and Muscovite 'hipsters'. At Door19, for example, apartments sell for between $15,000 and $20,000 per square metre.

Project Meganom Wins Contest to Transform Moscow Riverfront

Russian practice Project Meganom has been announced as the winner in a competition to drastically transform the Moscow riverfront. Their masterplan proposal aims to create a series of linear green spaces, while also incorporating new cultural and education spaces along the waterfront and improving the surrounding public transport. Announced at the IV annual Moscow Urban Forum which opened earlier today, the goal of the competition was to return the Moscow river from a "barrier" into a "link" in the city, restoring its historical status as the city's heart and most important transportation route.

Read on after the break for more details of Project Meganom's masterplan

Parliament Gardens Port © Courtesy of Project Meganom Parliament Gardens © Courtesy of Project Meganom Future ports, birds view © Courtesy of Project Meganom Green Channel birds view © Courtesy of Project Meganom

Cybertopia: The Digital Future of Analog Architectural Space

"Cyberspace, filled with bugs and glitches – the components of its natural habitat – will form a completely new and previously unknown location when released into a real city  – Cybertopia," says Egor Orlov, a current student at the Strelka Institute in Moscow. According to Orlov, the physical world is on the brink of a major technological breakthrough that will revolutionize the way architects conceive of space – closing the gap between analog and digital.

Cybertopia - completed while he was a student at the Kazan State University of Architecture and Engineering under tutors Akhtiamov I.I. and Akhtiamova R.H. and nominated for the Archiprix Madrid 2015 - exists as another dimension for Orlov, where fairy tales come to life and science harmonizes with engineering and architectural design. "Future of an Architecture Space. Cybertopia. Death of Analogous Cities," delves into a fantasy world where the "possibility to fly or walk from one planet to another" becomes an illustrated reality using a combination of drafting-based techniques and a wild imagination.

Enter the hybrid technological-analog world of Cybertopia after the break

© Egor Orlov 6. Housing of the future city. Program section. Image © Egor Orlov 10. Model of the future city. Image © Egor Orlov 29. Postcards from the future. Image © Egor Orlov

IV Moscow Urban Forum: “Drivers of City Development”

The IV annual Moscow Urban Forum is quickly approaching. To be held from December 11-14, the forum is an international conference on city planning, urban development and related subjects. With the overarching theme of “Drivers of City Development,” this year’s forum will feature talks by Uma Adusumilli, Pablo Allard, Dan Hill, Sergei Kapkov, Maksim Liksutov, Antanas Mockus and Hui Wang, among many others.

The Forum will look at infrastructure, economy, social development and culture as the main drivers of city development, with day one starting by discussing the global development of megacities as well as the agenda for Russian city development. Day two will focus specifically on Moscow’s city agenda, while days three and four will feature the Forum speakers as well as special events for urban communities.

Reflections on the 2014 Venice Biennale

Fundamentals, the title of the 2014 Venice Biennale, will close its doors in a matter of days (on the 23rd November). From the moment Rem Koolhaas revealed the title for this year’s Biennale in January 2013, asking national curators to respond directly to the theme of ‘Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014’, there was an inkling that this Biennale would be in some way special. Having rejected offers to direct the Biennale in the past, the fact that Koolhaas chose to act not only as curator but also thematic co-ordinator of the complete international effort, was significant. This announcement led Peter Eisenman (one of Koolhaas' earliest tutors and advocates) to state in one interview that “[Rem is] stating his end: the end of [his] career, the end of [his] hegemony, the end of [his] mythology, the end of everything, the end of architecture.”

Reimagining 448 Local Libraries in Moscow, One Space at a Time

SVESMI, an unassuming studio based in central Rotterdam, is at the center of a dauntingly complex project that may eventually see the renovation of 448 dilapidated and disused branch libraries in Moscow. Architects Anastassia Smirnova and Alexander Sverdlov balance their time between Rotterdam, which acts as their design studio, and Moscow from which, alongside architects Maria Kataryan and Pavel Rueda, they oversee the project at large. Faced by the potential challenge of reimagining over 450 public 'living rooms' spread across the Russian capital and demanding unusually high levels of spatial articulation and social understanding, the Open Library project is also unwinding the hidden narrative of Moscow’s local libraries.

Interior Collage - Dostoyevsky Library. Image © SVESMI Interior of Library - #127. Image © SVESMI Interior Collage - #185. Image © SVESMI Interior Collage - Library #127. Image © SVESMI

Groundlab + WOWHAUS Chosen to Redesign Moscow’s Largest Park

Groundlab, WOWHAUS and Urbanica have been announced as winners of an international competition to redesign Sokolniki Park, Moscow’s largest park. Over the next 15 years, their 515 hectare masterplan, "Sokolniki. Nature's embassy in Moscow," will focus on preserving the 19th century park’s unique natural landscape as an extension of the Losiny Ostrov nature park by dividing it into three zones: Forest, Forest Park and Regular Park. 

Images of the winning design, after the break.

ASTOC and HPP Selected to Masterplan Moscow’s New Finance Center

ASTOC and HPP have been announced as winners of a two-stage competition to masterplan “New Moscow’s” International Financial Center (IFC) in Rublyovo-Arkhangelskoye. The phased, 460 hectare development will capitalize on the Moscow River’s greenbelt by extending the river landscape throughout the IFC to achieve a balance between nature and city. 

More information, images and a video about the winning proposal, after the break…

Shukhov Radio Tower Saved by Moscow City Hall

Moscow's Cultural Heritage Department has stepped in to save Vladimir Shukhov's historic 1922 Shabolovka Radio Tower, with a conservation order protecting its materials, architectural composition, structural elements and location. The news will be a relief to the many architects - including Tadao AndoElizabeth DillerRem Koolhaas and Thom Mayne  - who agreed with Norman Foster that the tower is "a structure of dazzling brilliance and great historical importance", and signed a petition urging for the structure to be saved.

Thanks to the conservation order, the neglected building will have to be repaired, and Moscow City Hall now hopes to collaborate with Russia's national government to organize an open international competition the restoration and re-purposing of the 160m tower.

Read on after the break for more on the Shukhov Tower's proposed future

Step Inside This Brain-Like Pavilion for an Eerie Architectural Light Show

Have you ever wondered what a thought might look like traveling through your brain? In a recent installation in Moscow's Nikola-Lenivets park, media design firm Radugadesign animated the inner workings of the human brain with an innovative video projection. Universal Mind, a sculptural installation by artist Nikolay Polisskyserves as the immobile backdrop for the elaborate video mapping project. Over the course of nearly eight minutes, Polissky's brain-like sculpture explodes into a maelstrom of light and sound, with carefully curated streams of energetic colour interspersed with dark scenes of manufactured glimmering starlight.

(Re)Made in China: The Soviet-Era Planning Projects Shaping China's Cities

The following article, written by Jacob Dreyer and originally published in The Calvert Journal as "Maximum city: the vast urban planning projects of Soviet-era Russia are being reborn in modern China," analyzes a fascinating phenomenon: the exportation of Soviet urbanism — or rather Stalinist urbanism  shaping Chinese cities today. 

As I cycled to work on 20 May this year, the Yan’an Expressway — Shanghai’s crosstown artery, named after the utopian socialist city that was Mao Zedong's 1940s stronghold — was eerily silent, cordoned off for a visit by President Vladimir Putin. We discovered the next day that the upshot of his visit was the signing a $400bn contract with China for the export of gas and petroleum. As President Barack Obama had once promised he would, Putin made a pivot to Asia, albeit on a slightly different axis. From Shanghai, the terms of the deal — which was immensely advantageous to China — made it seem as if Russia was voluntarily becoming a vassal-state of the People’s Republic, making a reality of both the predictions of Vladimir Sorokin’s dystopian fantasy novel Day of the Oprichnik and of Russian scare stories about Chinese immigrants flooding into Siberia.

The irony is that models of society imported from Russia during the Soviet period — as realised in popular culture, legal apparatuses and, of particular interest to the cyclist, in architecture and urban planning — are as influential as ever in China. If, as Chinese philosopher Wang Hui observed in his book The End of Revolution, Socialism was the door through which China passed on its voyage into modernity, then it was Russia that opened that door, by exporting models and expertise that laid the foundation for much of what constitutes modern China.

Zaha Hadid on Russian Artist Kazimir Malevich

In an article for London's Royal Academy of Arts Magazine entitled Plane Sailing, Zaha Hadid discusses the influence of Russian Suprematist painter Kazimir Malevich on her own design work. In Hadid's early work, such as The Peak Blue Slabs (1982/83), the visual connections to Malevich's strict, regular shapes and lines are evident.

Painting: Vitra Fire Station. Image © Zaha Hadid Relief Model: Vitra Fire Station. Image Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects Painting: Vitra Fire Station. Image © Zaha Hadid Vitra Fire Station, Germany. Image © Wojtek Gurak

Foster + Partners Designs Headquarters for Copper Company in Russia

Foster + Partners has revealed designs for the headquarters of RMK, one of the world's leading copper producers based in Yekaterinburg, Russia. The 13-story building is designed to complement the company's working style, splitting office spaces into two-story modular units which provide comfortable and flexible work spaces.

The facade of the building features triangular panels of bronze-colored steel, a motif that is inspired by the color and chemical structure of copper. These steel panels also express the modular offices within the building, with each ten by six-meter panel corresponding to a single office module, and regulate the building's temperature by shading the building in the summer but admitting winter sunshine.

Read on after the break for more on the design

Russian Character Competition Won by Concept for a 'Dacha in a Dvor'

Design studio Megabudka has won the Russian Character competition, an open contest to design a culture and education centre for the Moscow suburb of Butovo Park. Their concept, entitled "Dacha in a Dvor" plays on the typically Russian idea of the Dacha, a seasonal home located outside the city that has been a part of Russian culture since the reign of Peter the Great.

The design by Megabudka consists of a cluster of buildings arranged around a "Dvor", or central courtyard containing apple trees and recreational spaces. As a whole, the design aims to bring the joys of seasonal rural life to the outskirts of Moscow, with a single flexible space shared by the whole community.

More on the design after the break

Winner of the competition, Dacha in a Dvor by Megabudka. Image Courtesy of The Morton Group Winner of the competition, Dacha in a Dvor by Megabudka. Image Courtesy of The Morton Group This alternative proposal by MEL is being considered for similar projects elsewhere. Image Courtesy of The Morton Group This proposal by Enota+Archimetrics won the peoples' choice award. Image Courtesy of The Morton Group

A Provocative Possible Future for Moscow's Failing Business District

What can you do with a business district that has an office vacancy rate of 40%, is completely separated from its surroundings and is facing increasing competition from business centers emerging throughout the city? These are questions that are increasingly being asked about Moscow's International Business District, the symbol of capitalism that was planned in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union, yet is still under construction today.

Eduardo Cassina and Liva Dudareva, founders of METASITU and researchers at the Strelka Institute, have proposed a provocative idea in response to this dilemma: envisaging the business district's future in 2041, they imagine a scenario where the district is linked by underground metro to Sheremetyevo And Domodedovo airports in the North and South - forming the world's first mega-airport, and the first one where it is possible to live in the terminal building without ever leaving.

Read on after the break for more explanation of idea

Diagram showing the locations of Stop Over City and the two existing airports. Image Courtesy of Eduardo Cassina and Liva Dudareva In many ways, Stop Over City is more closely related to the global airports it is connected to than to the city outside its doors. Image Courtesy of Eduardo Cassina and Liva Dudareva An underground tunnel connecting buildings in Stop Over City. Image Courtesy of Eduardo Cassina and Liva Dudareva The entrance hall in Stop Over City. Image Courtesy of Eduardo Cassina and Liva Dudareva

Ten in Shortlist to Redesign Moscow's Sokolniki Park

Competition organizers Archpolis have announced an international shortlist of ten practices that will go on to compete for the chance to redesign Moscow's Sokolniki Park. The park, which at 515 Hectares is the largest park in Moscow, is an important part of Moscow's Heritage, having first been used for recreation as a site for falcon hunting in the 15th century.

During the 19th century, the park was officially established, and bestowed with a distinctive radial design.The winner of the competition will be expected to work within this framework, as in 1979 the park became a protected monument of garden-park design from the 17th through 19th centuries.

Read on after the break for the shortlist